California Valley farms could grow clean energy

Central San Joaquin Valley farmers are well known for growing a bounty of crops, but energy advocates say the region's farms and ranches also could be cultivating leadership in adopting clean energy.

Farmers, government officials, and utility representatives will meet Wednesday and Thursday at the Southern California Edison's AgTAC Center in Tulare for the inaugural Farming Clean Energy Conference.

Conference organizers say the event is designed to spotlight the Valley's clean energy potential, possible challenges and examples of successful clean energy projects.

With plenty of sun and some of the nation's most productive agricultural land, the Valley already is home to several farm-based renewable energy projects, including dairy waste-to-natural gas projects and photovoltaic solar farms.

Among the large-scale solar projects in the Valley are a 1.13-megawatt, $3.2 million system at Clovis-based P-R Farms and Paramount Farms' $7.5 million, 1.1-megawatt system covering about 8 acres in Lost Hills in Kern County.

But advocates say the potential exists for more.

"We know that times are tough, but this is a tremendous opportunity for the Valley, and we want to make sure that people are thinking and talking about developing clean energy," said Paul Johnson, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization and a conference presenter. The nonprofit organization was created by the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley to help coordinate a regional approach to increasing the level of clean energy investments in the Valley.

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